Time Lapse Photography – Part 1

For a long time I’ve been interested in time-lapse photography and stop motion animation with normal still cameras.

Back in 2004, when I was doing my part-time two year photography course at SCOLA, I did a couple of my projects based on these topics.

For one project I looked to make a music video using still photos for My First Knife Fight, a London band that I had used for another of my photography projects in the first year of my course. I was looking to create something akin to Michel Gondry’s video for the Rolling Stones’ cover of ‘Like A Rolling Stone‘.

In preparation for what I had in mind I did some test shots with my friend Wim. The test shots were done on a film camera, which proved somewhat problematic as the camera continuous film advance kept sticking as the film wound on and so the interval between shots became a bit more irregular. The camera should have been able to do 3 Frames Per Second (FPS) but with these problems the FPS kept varying. This would have made it problematic in terms of syncing the images to be in time with the music. And doing all of this on a film camera, I didn’t have the luxury of being able to delete and try again, like you would have with a digital camera these days, but did have the expense of using film and the time that it required to develop the film and scan the negatives in…

I scanned in the negatives for the best sequence of still photos that I managed to get during the test shots and imported them into Macromedia Director in order to animate the stills. When played normally the motion was very jerky.

In order to smooth the animation I overlaid the photos in Director’s timeline, i.e. the first photo overlapped the second photo slightly in the timeline, the second overlapped the third etc. Then I set the transparency of each photo to fade out as the next photo in the sequence faded in. The effect was a lot more successful and more in mind with what I was looking to achieve.

However, the band were having issues and about to split, so nothing ever came of taking what I had learnt during the test shots and doing a shoot to get the images for a full video.

As a result, I just ended up using a whole load of still images that I had taken of the band over the course of a year and putting them to music so that I could finish the project for my course. I was waiting on the band to provide me with an mp3 of one of their songs to use but it didn’t eventuate before the band split. Needing a song to complete the project, and this being in the days before every band had a Myspace page with some of their songs on it, I scoured as many random and little known songs as I could find in order to get a song I could pass off as a My First Knife Fight song to accompany the video.

I eventually found a song that was quite short, at well under 3 minutes (and so cut down my workload), had a grungy sound like My First Knife Fight and, coming from a friend in London’s Triple J Hottest 100 compilation, would be largely unknown in the UK. Trouble is that I moved to Australia in mid-2004 and ‘Berlin Chair‘ by You Am I is slightly better known here than in the UK… In putting the final video together I did a series of tests to sort out the best method to use. Below is the final trial and the method that I ended up using for the full video. There are a couple of mistakes in this test but it gives an idea of what the final video looked like.

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